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University of Cambridge > Engineering Department > MMD > Tribology



Research in Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge University Engineering Department includes a vigorous programme of work in Tribology which builds on the long record of work in the field of friction, lubrication and wear carried out in both the Engineering Department and other laboratories in Cambridge. In recent years new problems have become apparent in these areas: these include subjects as the application of contact mechanics to micro and nano-tribology, the tribology of soft and natural materials, the development of performance maps for repeated contacts, the way in which entrapped abrasives damage bearing surfaces and the mechanics of surface distress and wear particle formation.

Work in progress or recently completed includes projects on:
  • strength and failure of engineered surfaces in rolling and sliding contact,
  • metal deformation, friction and lubrication in the cold rolling of thin strip,
  • wear and lubrication maps,
  • calculation of film thicknesses in elasto-hydrodynamic lubrication,
  • rough surfaces and the breakdown of ehl,
  • abrasive wear,
  • mechanisms of lubrication in metal cutting.
  • adhesion of soft solids,
  • tribology of MEMS and micro-machines
Almost all of these projects are being performed in collaboration with industrial partners and many benefit from collaboration with other research groups in the Department in such fields as materials science, applied dynamics, turbomachinery and soil mechanics. The group has good laboratory and workshop facilities and there is considerable expertise in instrumentation and computing. The group has close links with other research groups in Cambridge, the tribology groups of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institute of Physics as well as other academic and research institutions.

Under the auspices of the Institute for Manufacturing the group runs a three day post-experience course in Tribology. This attracts delegates from a wide range European countries as well as the UK: further details are available at:

Further Information

  • List of the staff of the group and their main subject interests.
  • Research in individual areas of activity and giving the name of the member of staff most directly involved. Members of the group participate in advisory work and from time to time short-term projects are undertaken to meet specific industrial needs.
  • Enquiries for these and other work are welcomed. Further information on any of the work or advice on potential new research can be obtained from Professor J A Williams at: Cambridge University Engineering Department, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ. Telephone: +44 (0)1223 765237, Fax: +44 (0)1223 332662. E-mail:
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